The Sylvania Planning Commission on Wednesday recommended approval of a proposed 11.4-acre expansion of Lourdes University between Brint Road and Convent Boulevard on the condition that modifications are made.
The panel wants the university to switch the location of a planned academic center with that of a proposed 47,000-square-foot athletic and recreation facility Lourdes wants to build to the south. The commission also wants a walkway running through the site to be moved 20 to 30 feet to the east.
Switching the locations of the two buildings would temper concerns of some residential neighbors who feared congestion and noise from the athletic facility, which is deep inside the site on the Lourdes plan.
If there was a plan by "Gold's Gym instead of Lourdes to put an athletic facility serving 3,500 students in the middle of a residential community, would you approve it?" attorney Marshall Bennett asked rhetorically, speaking on behalf of Bent Creek Crossing condominium resident James Regan.
His question garnered applause from about 40 neighborhood residents attending the meeting who -- with the exception of a few residents who spoke about traffic congestion and other concerns during the public comment period -- remained relatively quiet during the hour-long hearing.
Mr. Regan and other area residents have been especially put off by the plan's athletic facility, citing noise, congestion and crime concerns. Mr. Marshall previously sent detailed letters to the planning commission on their behalf, laying out the case against the project.
Mr. Marshall told the planning commission members they were a "bulwark between politics and planning."
"I don't believe there is any way you can approve it," he said.
During discussions before the vote, planning commission member Ken Marciniak and commission chairman Thomas Lindsley said they liked the project, but not with its current layout, and they recommended the buildings be switched.
Moving it to the north, onto Convent, would give it short access from that street and distance it from Bent Creek, which is off Brint.
Moving the walkway east would move it farther away from Bent Creek Crossing. Condo residents were concerned that people using a southern parking lot planned for the site would mean a steady stream of young people on the path during morning hours.
The planning commission's vote was 3-1, with Dr. Read Backus dissenting. Dr. Backus, a retired dentist, said he liked the Lourdes plan the way it was.
The planning commission's recommendation to city council is not binding.
Council is to consider it at its regular meeting 7:30 p.m. Monday. It will hold a another public hearing an hour earlier.
If council takes action that departs from the planning commission recommendation, five votes will be required. An acceptance of the recommendation would need four votes.
Similarly, council would require five votes to take action on an emergency basis, which would allow its decision to take effect right away. This is not expected to happen, which means the Lourdes project is expected to go through three readings before passage.
After Wednesday's planning commission hearing, Lourdes President Robert Helmer indicated the university was open to making the modifications. "We are respectfully considering these changes and will answer any questions council members may have," he said.
The Lourdes project would extend from Convent on the north to Brint on the south. It envisions a campus ministry, two parking lots, a future academic building, and an athletic and recreation building.
University officials say it would enable them to offer more programs and services and increase enrollment at the 2,652-student school.
Contact Carl Ryan at: email@example.com or 419-724-6095.